How Self-Publishing has Helped All Writers–Welcome to the Revolution

Author Kristen Lamb, social media writers, author platform, WANA, We Are Not Alone

Yes, I have more books in my car if you need.

Writing is a very different gig. In most jobs, we don’t need years of external validation to prove what we “really” are. We don’t have to save so many lives before we are a “real” doctor” or close so many mortgages before we are a “real” banker. But with writing? With the arts? We struggle. When are we “really real”?

For the answer to this question, I advise, Don’t Eat the Butt!

A lot of us want that traditional publishing stamp of approval, but there are a lot of recent red flags in the industry that demonstrate this might not be the best path for those of us who want a long-term career. Traditional publishing is also very slow, and there are huge gaps they cannot fill. For instance, technology.

When I was at Thrillerfest, one of the old guard teaching a class announced that, “Self-publishing was only good if you were a breast-feeding truck-driver who wanted to write a book for breast-feeding truck-drivers.” I have zero clue what is meant by that statement, but the comment speaks volumes, and highlights a problem in the industry.

Writers, for some reason, seem to be at the bottom of the food chain. We are the ones who produce the product, yet we are the last to get paid and seem to be treated the worst. It seems any 24 year old with a degree from NYU can hang up a shingle and call herself a literary agent and suddenly she is “real.” Author Joe Konrath has talked about this problem at length on his blog, which I highly recommend.

Yet, even after two #1 best-selling books, I still cannot get Barnes & Noble to shelve my books, because I am not a “real” writer. B&N literally has turned customers away trying to order my books in the store and they will only sell my books on-line. My books are returnable, so there shouldn’t be a problem, yet conference after conference I have to lug in a suitcase of my books because B&N won’t stock them, even though my books almost always sell out.

*shrugs* More money for me. And I am supposed to feel sorry for booksellers who are suffering. Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

I was even invited to speak at a conference and then, after my classes, they refused let me sell my books inside with the other authors. I had to go out into 112 degree heat to sell social media books in the parking lot because I wasn’t a “real” writer.

So I can appreciate the feeling of wanting and needing validation.

What I love about the new paradigm is that it seems to be finally earning writers the respect they should have had all along. I know back when I was querying, I felt agents were gods who stepped down from Mt. Olympus to see if they could find a champion among the unwashed masses. I so wanted to prove I was the one who could bring home the golden fleece best-selling numbers.

I recall typing my queries, hands shaking. One time, I was so nervous I misspelled “query” in the header of the e-mail and was instantly rejected. Though agents have demanded perfection and professionalism from me, I have received rejection letters with typos, my name misspelled and even the wrong name. I have received form-letters and sticky notes. We aren’t supposed to send a mass-query, yet I have received many a mass-rejection.

And I am not here to gripe about how I am being mistreated, because I really don’t care about anyone’s behavior other than my own. But this does raise an important point.

As the industry shifts and writers gain more power, will the industry as a whole benefit?

As more and more self-published and indie authors start earning a really good living, will we still get those “self-publishing is only for freaks” comments? As writers band together and blog and build platforms capable of driving sales, we become more powerful. Will this then force agents and editors to behave better?

Are we part of the women’s writer’s liberation movement?

I have been to conferences where agents didn’t want to take pitches or would walk off in the middle of a writer talking. I know I had an agent I finally had to fire because she just never returned e-mails. Finally, after six months without a peep I assumed my agent was dead or had been abducted by aliens. But I posit this question.

Would an agent stand for a writer who didn’t return an e-mail for six months?

As a social media person, I’ve witnessed agents tweeting lines from rejected queries, openly making fun of writers. Yet, when they google a writer to represent, what do they demand? Professional behavior. What if we were tweeting and making fun of literary agents?

Make no mistake, I feel we as writers need to come up higher as professionals and set the example. Frankly, as NYTBSA Bob Mayer has stated, “Writers are in the entertainment business.” Yes we are artists (entertainment), but we are also in business. It is incumbent upon us to know our craft. We cannot assume that command of our native tongue qualifies us to be best-selling authors, and we also need to understand our industry and business.

And here is where I feel self-publishing has greatly benefitted writer-kind.

I feel that self-publishing, oddly enough, has been a massive benefit to all writers. Why?

It has forced writers to understand the business side of the business.

I feel it has helped many writers embrace this business side of the equation and step up their game as professionals. Writers who are pursuing or even considering going it alone suddenly take social media and platform-building far more seriously. There is something transformative about finishing the story, then digging in to create the product. Many self-published authors understand the new publishing paradigm better than the Big Six editors, and I feel this is a real advantage.

Many of us have learned about web sites, accounting, formatting, and even cover design. The new publishing paradigm is constantly changing and forcing us to learn, grow, adapt, change, and ship.

The new paradigm forces writers to ship.

If you read Seth Godin’s Linchpin (which I highly recommend), he says one of the marks of a true artist is real artists ship. We let go. We sell the painting, burn the CD or publish the book and then move on to the next. Saturday Night Live happens no matter what. Good or bad, they ship.

One of the biggest problems I have seen with writers is they keep working and reworking and reworking the first book. In the new paradigm? They publish. If it is a super stinker they pull it and pray people forget. If it’s so-so, they leave it, but best of all, if they are smart, they move on and write more books. One of the largest barriers to becoming a successful writer is trying to be a perfect writer. The new paradigm gives new writers a way to ship so they can move forward and write more books and better books. 

It has encouraged writers to become empowered by building a platform.

Also, since there have been some real successes from the indie and self-pub fronts, it has forced traditional authors to realize how social media can give them control of their careers. As traditional authors build viable platforms, they suddenly have options. Many are realizing that NY is no longer the only road to Rome and they have the power to walk away (Barry Eisler).

Social media and self-publishing has given authors bargaining power and, with that, respect.

True story. A friend of mine couldn’t get an agent to even listen to a pitch (and the same agent had been a real toad to me). My friend self-published and was doing really well. Next conference? This agent wanted to represent him. Suddenly thought his books were awesome and brilliant. My friend comes to me and says, “There is no way I can go traditional. I make way too much money.” Then he asks me, “You think I should e-mail him a rejection letter?”

The story makes me chuckle, but it is just proof of what I have been saying all along. It is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer.

Writers are no longer satisfied with being publishing fodder. We are stepping up and demanding the respect we are owed. Now? Agents. We are googling you. We are watching what you are tweeting and we are reading your blogs. We are not expecting anything from you that you aren’t expecting of us—professionalism and respect.

It is a wonderful time to be a writer. No matter what road writers now choose to take, traditional, self-pub or indie, I feel writers will finally enjoy the success and the esteem they deserve.

Welcome to the revolution!

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? Are you happy that writers now have more options? Do you feel overwhelmed? Excited? For those of you who have gone indie or self-published, what are the greatest lessons you have learned?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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  1. Great, I’m neither lactating, nor able to drive an 18-wheeler. So screwed … 🙂 Seriously, what the heck does that mean?

    Love your positivity lady! Grow. Grow. Grow. That’s the mindset.

    1. Hi E. J., My guess is that it means it works for a very niche market…

  2. Reblogged this on CollectiveCompositions!.

  3. Great post Kirsten again!! I agree with you. It is a great time to be a writer. Without Self Publishing, people like me would not have a chance to express oneself publicly. The comment about self-publishing by one of the old guards ranks of crass ignorance and may be even fear. Why else would an established traditional house buy up a Indie Publisher? Keep fighting; we are with you all the way!!

  4. My apologies for spelling your name wrong!!! Typical. I got so animated reading your post that I could hardly type!! Sorry.

  5. I think I was fortunate to have some background in business before I finished my first book, but the process has still been a long road of learning.

    I queried a dozen or more agents in the fall and winter of 2009, believing that was the route I was supposed to take. The more research I did, however, the more I saw the possibility of forging my own path. That path has been bumpy, to be sure, and has not led to fame and riches (yet!), but I am happy every day that I’ve taken it.

    My work has been read and enjoyed by people around the world. Complete strangers have posted glowing reviews and said how much they loved the stories I’ve created. What more validation could I possibly ask for? I don’t need a rubber stamp from some suit in New York.

  6. Just posted the link to this article on my FB page, PublishSavvy. Amen, amen, and amen. Love the “now the agent loves me” story — and yes he should have sent him a form rejection letter afterwards. I am sorry to hear that you can’t get your books on a shelf but hey – guess who’s not using a middleman to take even more of a cut of the book? You.

  7. When Konrath suggested that the author/big six/agent relationship can be like an abusive one, it really hit home. About ten years ago, I turned down NY. I felt, not regret, but worry, I’d made wrong decision, but time has proved it was right for me. I love the control I have over my business. At least I know that any mistakes are mine. Great blog post!

  8. Excellent post, Kristen. As always, you have sifted through the chaff and found the substance of the issue. Thanks for blazing the trail for indie authors.

  9. I am pleased that the evolution of the publishing world is such that we have the leverage necessary to even the playing field, so that the elites are are now colleagues and peers. NOW we can do business.

  10. BTW its really easy to get your material into Lightning Source, Kristen, so that people who walk into B&N can order it, and you don’t have to lug them around anymore. Drop me a line if you want to look into that =)

    1. My books were with Lightning Source and B&N still refused to shelve them. No idea. I just keep writing :D. Thanks for the offer, but I am out of ideas and it is what it is. Just keep swimmin’, swimmin’, swimmin’…

    • Laura C. on July 20, 2012 at 10:57 am
    • Reply

    Thanks so much for this post. I am just starting my lifelong dream of writing and I’ve had some trepidation that I am starting too late. Your words have not only given me hope, I’m excited about the possibilities!

  11. Ooh this has made me feel all shiny and positive again 🙂

  12. I’m a a writing conference right now, and I just had my first face to face meeting with an agent. After she told me my work was “unpublishable”, I felt like she had deleted my query letter right in front of me and then slapped me. I have a platform of readers all ready for my book, a book getting better by the day, and she could at least been nice about it- or told me to keep working or whatever. Thank you for this post. All day yesterday I believed the agent and felt like the biggest failure ever. Now I know it was just her opinion, and I’m going to prove her wrong (cheered on by my workshop instructor.)

    1. *at a writing conference

    2. Well, make sure you study your craft. Read the craft books and go to the classes and learn all you can. Become an expert at your art. I know agents don’t always act the way they should, but we need to make sure we are setting the standard for quality and professionalism. I wish you the best. I know how it feels *hugs* but if you keep working hard and improving your product you will look back and laugh :D. Any agent who would treat another human being that way would not be good to work with anyway, so rejoice!

      • Lanette Kauten on July 20, 2012 at 11:36 am
      • Reply

      James Rollins was told his first novel was unpublishable. Sounds like you’re in good company.

  13. As a new writer just starting out, I am really grateful for posts like this. Posts that not only explain the possibility of something outside of the traditional route, but also reaffirm the path I have chosen. I especially appreciate your comments on the necessity of writers getting the same respect that is afforded to the publishers and agents. Your point, “We are the ones who produce the product, yet we are the last to get paid and seem to be treated the worst,” has really stuck with me. Thanks for sharing and promoting the other possibilities and reminding writers that they deserve to be seen as the artists they are.

  14. I’m thrilled to see the pendulum swinging AWAY from the “traditional” publishers. As you point out, they demand perfection and professionalism, but it seems to be a one way street. Form rejection letters aren’t very professional, and yes, I know they are swamped, but if it’s sauce for the goose …

    Maybe agents and agencies are starting to slide down that same path. I don’t mean to suggest we writers should become smug and simply dismiss the concept of representation and/or traditional publishing; not ALL self published authors will prove the traditionalist wrong, but a significant number of them (us) should cause agents, agencies, and established “traditional” publishers to recognize that dinosaurs disappeared because they didn’t adapt to a changing world.

    1. I feel we just need to keep working hard and strive for excellence. Then, if the time comes that we need representation, I feel the tone will be more professional. I do feel that agents should understand that writers have a job without them. They don’t have a job without us. This is no reason for us (writers) to be smug or disrespectful. Quite the contrary. I just feel it underscores how the agent and writer are partners. It isn’t some demigod granting mere mortals favor, LOL.

  15. I find this post to be particularly helpful. I also think the industry is changing and it’s time to embrace that change wholeheartedly, because it will end up benefiting writers, the ones who make it all happen in the first place.

  16. This is a terrific post. I just got back from a convention where I did some writing sessions and was basically told the same thing. Self-publishing is only good for people with a very narrow niche and the presenter even went a step further and said we were ruining the publishing industry. However, after the class I looked at sales ranking and my three books are higher than either of his books. The fact is I am reaching an audience and he isn’t. I have over 15 times more twitter and facebook followers than him. He even said he is only in 15% of the Barnes and Nobles across the country and most of those are because he personally visited each store and spoke to the managers. No matter what way I add it up right now, traditionally publishing just doesn’t seem like the right option for me.
    Before I discovered that self publishing was a viable path, I only sent out ten agent queries and got back ten form letters (except one did have a hand written note on it referring me to someone else). The system seems backwards and there needs to be change.

    • Kenn Ashcraft on July 20, 2012 at 11:30 am
    • Reply

    As usual Kristen, you’re spot-on here. I feel, as a wannabe writer, I need to embrace publishing as a total work in progress. I need to utilize ALL publishing venues and build a mix for what works best for me. Self-publishing leads the way, both electronic and printed and then followed by traditional. I totally get the business side of the art but I’m not concerned about that. I want to be able to provide my reader with the best possible product and continue on as you say ‘building my platform’. I have a long way to go to get my first out there, hopefully in the next six to nine months. And we’ll take it from there. Thanks again for a great piece here.

  17. This is JUST what I needed to hear as I head into conference week next week. Thank you so much!

  18. YES! I just love your attitude and that you share so openly with people like me — looking for leadership into this vast new world. Better yet, by reading your posts, I’m able to help fellow writers. Thanks for the wisdom.

    Soon to be epubbed (man I love saying that!),

    Kathryn Jane.

  19. might as well face it, I’m addicted to you’re blog.

  20. might as well face it, I can’t spell your. sigh

  21. It really is about knowing your joy, isn’t it? My point being that you remind writers that they write because they love it, and when one does what one loves, there is only joy and the strength it extends. Then, you take that to the next level and provide thoughtful discussion on how to approach or consider agents and what possibilities lie within self-publishing beyond the obvious. you invite the writer to look within, quite powerful that.

    What I appreciate so much in all of your posts (and response to comments) is that you remind all writers that professionalism is required of them, which includes knowing one’s craft. You are not pointing fingers but rather supporting writers, showing them the possibilities but also guiding them as they consider all those shiny objects.

    Exceptionally strong post, Kristen.


  22. Hello Kristen –
    Your post had lots of great information for writers & authors, especially new authors. Helping us realize that learning the business side of what we do as writers & authors is invalable. I understand that some authors are business-phobic. I wonder what we can do to help writers/authors understand and help them learn & do the business aspect of the writing/entertainment business. My good friend who is a sculpure does AMAZING work. He had an OK website & went to art shows. But it was not until his wife quit her job & took up the business end of his Art Business did he truly make a name for himself in bigger circles. (She did some art, but it was clear that she had a better aptitude for business). My friend didn’t have that business bone in him. So, until he got a business partner, the business end did average despite the quality & quantity of his work.

    In a way this has become the role of agents – they do the business end for creative types who can’t do it for themselves. So, we say to these same creative writers to learn, manage & do well in the business end. There are people who can do both, but what about our writers who can’t. I wonder if traditional publishing is their main option? Or indy publishing? I wish there is a way to help artists to find other artists who also know the business part & can help/mentor/shadow each other. Maybe there is already something like this. I am new to all of this. However, I have experience with all kinds of artsts who are unable to truly implement their artistic business (painting, sculpture, writing, poetry, dance, etc) because for whatever reasons they can’t do the business aspect.

    Thanks for an amazingly provocative post, Kristen.

    p.s. I also liked that you pointed out that come Saturday, SNL does their show – great or not. But as writers we want so much of our work to be excellent. As you said, little do we know that by not shipping our work we are doing ourselves more of a disservice than shipping/publishing OK work. Days of editing can turn into months so quickly!

  23. Thank you for your post. I agree with everything you’ve said. One thing I would add is for the first time in the history of publishing that writers can control their own product and the content. They control their product from beginning to end instead of handing it off to an editor who makes changes that are not always beneficial to the story and then refuse to listen to the writer when they try to explain why that change doesn’t work. If the writer objects too loudly to the editor, they might earn undeserved reputations as being difficult. Controlling my content excites me. (The money does, too). For the first time in my 30+ years in the business, I’m excited about writing again. All the changes happening in publishing now is creating a new type of writer–one who is control. I get to call the shots now.

  24. I suggest we evolve the term from “self publication” to “cottage presses.” It’s easier to spell, avoids the unfortunate bikini-area typo, and reflects the true nature that we are in command, and proud of, the entire process. Raise your keyboard to the revolution, pilgrims!!

    I’m leaving the whine behind (agents who offer no reason for rejection even after modest success, a medium-sized press owner who can’t be bothered to return my emails) and setting up my own factory. Thanks for holding up the red flag of accountability to them all, Kristen, let’s go shoulder to shoulder into the marketplace, comrades!

    1. Love the name “Cottage Press” – sounds better than Self-publish. Go for it. Up the revolution!!

  25. The fact that self publishing is now a viable way to reach readers is great, even for authors who are still dead set on going traditional. We now have choices – and the publishers know. that. We no longer have to accept miniscule royalties or unconscionable noncompete clauses – and if we can’t negotiate them out, we can walk. Best of all, we can sell those genres that NY thinks are “dead” – and that readers still want. It’s win-win!

    • Shannon Esposito on July 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm
    • Reply

    This just gave me chills! I want to jump up and down and shout “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I’m so excited to be a writer in these times. You’re so right about the freedom to keep writing, instead of just trying to make one piece good enough to gain entry through that very slim, very subjective door. I love that we can put our work out there and readers can decide whether they want to buy it or not. In fact, the new gate keepers are the readers, which is the way it should be.

    And having to sell your books outside because you’re “not a real writer.” How ridiculous and condescending is that? We’re tearing the clubhouse down and building a coliseum, where every writer is welcomed to give it their best shot. (And Kristen is leading the way 🙂

    1. I like the idea of a different name than self-published, but am not sure cottage press hits quite the right note. Although, it is like we’re creating our own publishing company, for ourselves….

      1. oops, this comment was addressed to Beverly Nault. For you, Shannon, I say – hip, hip, hurrah!

  26. I used to be one of those writers who was needy. Needing to feel validated by an agent. Needing to feel like someone thought I was good enough to be called an “author.” I have my own stack of rejection letters, most of them form rejections. Do I regret the time I spent trying to find that validation? No. But I’m certainly not gonna stick around and take it.
    Now, I’m a self-published author and love it. I’m made some wonderful fans and am gearing up to release my second book. I can’t imagine waiting around for a publisher to notice me. Right now I’m doing what I love and making money doing it!
    Win-win for me!

  27. Kristen, thank you for the inspiring blog. I love the way you are always uplifting despite attempts to put you down. I actually had the opportunity to publish the traditional way, but chose to self publish. I’d devoured both of your books and taken a hard look around. With bookstores closing and the industry changing almost daily, I didn’t want to risk waiting a year for New York to put the book into print. Who knew what the industry would look like in a year? And with my novel being the first in a mystery series, I really didn’t want to lose control over the series. Many of my writer friends were horrified by my decision. But, to my surprise, *readers* have thanked me for self-publishing. They tell me they like that the book was professionally written, edited and proofread, yet is being sold at a reasonable price ($3.99 for the eBook). That kind of reader encouragement assures me I made the right decision.

  28. Kristin, your posts always make me feel like taking up a banner and singing, “Do you hear the people sing…” ala Les Mis at the top of my lungs. 🙂

  29. Kristin, your posts always make me feel like taking up a banner and singing, “Do you hear the people sing…” ala Les Mis at the top of my lungs. 🙂

  30. Thank you for this blog. Yes, I think that self-publising/going indie has helped authors learn more about the business. They have created more skills and made authors really see it as a business rather than just writing books. I see it as a business, and that the more ebooks I have out there, the more people will know me and what I write. You now have to think of yourself as a brand not just as a writer.

  31. I can’t say enough how much I appreciated today’s post. For a while now I’ve been disturbed by the snarkiness of some agents and editors and their comments at conferences and social media. I mean what gives them the almighty power to tear a human being down or mock them in an open forum? Argh, don’t they know that karma is a bit*h? I mean what comes around does come around and, man o’ man, some of them are in line to get it in spades (delivered straight from the cosmic wheel of fortune).

    I love self publishing. It’s power to the people–not the corporations, but the writers. I mean, think about it, traditional publishers and booksellers (brick and mortar) were built on the backs of awesome writers. Dedicated writers who struggled like crazy to make their bills from the token monetary gratitude from the corps that published and sold their books. That financial gratitude was (and still is for some) a pittance compared to what the publishers required to maintain their NYC offices.

    I for one am tired of being a slave to the establishment–not to mention a target for those misguided snarky industry “professionals”. Enough is enough.

    If publishers are tired of losing money to self publishing, then I suggest they come up with a model that can compete. What type of model? Oh I don’t know… how about using what they have, (like editors and maybe their distribution channels to get books in brick and mortar stores), and building a forum/platform where they become a contractor for writers. That’s right I’m talking about a big six publisher taking one for the team and building a digital platform where an indie writer can go to them and contract them for editing OR distribution OR… just about anything they have that they can offer. I’m just saying that if I were in charge of a big six publishing house that I wouldn’t just stand there mouthing off and criticizing the talent pool where my bread is buttered, but I’d be out there pushing for change within my own organization to see how I could compete with Amazon, Create Space, or Lightning Source in the eyes of an indie writer… and support the mission-value statements of my company that says something (hopefully) about providing quality literature to the masses.

    Oh dear, I stepped up on my soapbox, didn’t I? Sorry for the rant, but thanks for publishing this post that made me think–I just love posts like these. 😉

    And yes, I am self published–for a year now. I’ve been toying with sending some of the next books to NY. But my gut keeps telling me not to since the feeling I still get from NY is that they don’t respect me as a writer and if they don’t respect me… how in the world can I respect them? (And yeah, I’m sad to say that it feels (in today’s golden age) that respect is earned by $$$ signs and only $ signs. And quality is managed by… what? Self respect?)

    • annerallen on July 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm
    • Reply

    Such a great post. We really are in the middle of a revolution that’s on a par with the one spurred by Gutenberg. You joked about it a couple of months ago: “Great, thanks to that Gutenberg jerk, everyone can be published.”…but it’s so true. Just the way Gutenberg took the power from the priestly caste and let ordinary people read the Bible, Self-epublishing has taken power from the corporate publishing caste and let ordinary people choose what they want to read. It’s epic!

  32. Excellent, Kristen. I’ve had four Big Six publishers. Four. In all four cases, I went to them on top, on a high note, and they all seemed to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Two of them, having tanked sales with questionable decisions, then dropped me, leaving me in a terrible position to start over. And notice they never say, “We didn’t sell your book well?” It’s always framed with the book’s performance seeming to equal its worth. The saddest thing is that even with all my experience, I really believed the books were to blame, that somehow not enough people wanted to read what I was writing. Now I have three indie titles paying all my bills and then some. If I can do it, why couldn’t they? Yes, it’s a great time to be a writer. I was teetering on the cusp of a day job, and indie ebooks handed me my career back. Viva la revolution!

  33. The question of legitimacy and validation fascinates me, and is one of the reasons I initially serialized my novel, Veronica’s Nap, on a blog. After all, bloggers were earning validation left and right simply because they had an audience, to the point of often becoming more well-respected than traditional media outlets. So why wouldn’t it work for fiction? I wondered. Where do you draw the line between book content and other online content?

    My experiment went well, with thousands of people visiting my blog each week when I was actively updating it. I eventually self-published, then accepted an offer to re-publish it via the new micropress Sixoneseven Books. Meanwhile, as now editorial co-director of Sixoneseven, I keep getting outstanding submissions from talented writers who have written truly dazzling books. Yet they haven’t been able to break into the traditional publishing market.

    Go figure.

    Write on!

  34. This is a great post. And you’re right, all these options, changing ways have made us more knowledgeable about the business side of things. When I read your posts, I say YES! They are such an encouragement.

    I really want to embrace the revolution, but I am watching everyone else rush forth singing its praise. It is overwhelming and perhaps it has a lot to do with the season of life I am at the moment and reading all those agent blogs, writer magazines, and craft books over the years has me still wondering about the quality and excellence of our art. How do we know we are ready without the stamp of approval? If I could know that, then maybe I could better handle the snub from B&N and other authors who claim self-pubbed authors aren’t really authors.

    I suppose it comes to a point where we have to believe in ourselves, our dreams and take a stand for them no matter what the opposition. Like you said, ship the book out…although, I think my first book probably shouldn’t see the light of day, perhaps with the next one…

  35. Hi Kristen. I love how informative this was. I have wrote poetry for a long time, but recently felt the change to writing stories. I cannot tell you how liberating and excited I am. I broke through some personal barriers, but in the end, the magic happened when I decided to WRITE FOR ME! I write like no one else will ever see it….the things that I want to feel, hear and say….those things that I adore reading in a great book. I am new to all this, I have a ways to go, but the story is progressing rapidly, and I have no idea where to start, It is a dream of mine to become ‘published’. I had no idea all this was going on in that world though. I would so love to have some critique on my “My Angel of Night” story I am writing. I will do the things you asked and see what happens. Thanks for helping us folks that are new, taking baby steps, and feel so lost and alone when it comes to the business side of this adventure. I would just jump for joy if I got a professional critique (squeals!) lol
    Anyways, thanks again and bless you for your guidance and generous heart…..

  36. P.S….you are a stunningly beautiful woman in your photo! What a bright smile! 😀

  37. Thanks again, Kristen, for a thought-provoker. One of the main reasons I read your blog–besides good content–is the positive up-beat way you present everything. Thank you!

    1. The future is what we make it and if we are positive, work hard, and expect great things, it is only a matter of time. I feel the road to success is probably just as long any way we take. It’s just a matter of personal choice and what fits best with our strengths. I do feel traditional publishers have a lot to offer or I wouldn’t take time to kick them in the tail and get them to innovate. But it is an excellent time to be a writer because we have a lot more options and a lot more power and with that, respect.

  38. Wow, thanks so much for this post. I will admit while learning about my traditional publishing options, I have snubbed my nose at self-publishing. I have been guilty of elitism in this and in other things. But it’s so wonderful to hear about authors who are not only self-publishing but being successful at it – and sticking it to the man at the same time! I think I’m going to rethink my publishing plans just because of this post 😀

  39. Very encouraging post for a “newbie” to the writing world. The line that most resonated with me? “One of the largest barriers to becoming a successful writer is trying to be a perfect writer.” I needed a kick in the butt. Thank you for putting this out there!

    • Alina K. Field on July 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm
    • Reply

    Great post, Kristin! I love that we have options that don’t involve banging our heads against brick (publishers’) walls. I’m working my way through WANA right now (it’s well-written, the problem is my technophobia), and I’m so looking forward to hearing your talk in Anaheim next week!

  40. It is sad, though, that people who have developed skill at making furniture then have to take time which could have been spent on making more of it in having to go out and sell what they have made. They are carpenters, not salesmen.
    From what you say, Barnes and Noble have several vital screws loose.

  41. Really well said. I love your ideas and think they are spot on. I’m rather new to the writing world so have not become but so jaded at this point, but I do think agents and pubs cannot expect more from us than they are willing to expect from themselves.

  42. A great summation of the current state of indie publishing. This is going into my Friday Mash up. Thanks.

  43. Part of me is glad I missed Thrillerfest this year, except I didn’t get to meet you, Kristen 🙂 It sounds like the tone was quite dismissive of anything BUT traditional. For an industry holding on by the skin of its teeth, you’d think they would promptly remove their heads from their butts.

    I still intend to query them (yes, I’m a masochist perhaps) but have also started opening my mind to the possibility of self-publishing. That would be something I’ll have to devote a lot ot time on, so that I can familiarize myself with the in’s and out’s of it. My poor husband! He’ll be the one I’ll turn to for help with the techie stuff. lol

  44. Oh shoot! Duh! I also wanted to mention that i’ve just started your first book. I already finished your second one a few weeks ago.

    • Mark Totilo on July 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm
    • Reply


    That is so cool. I was just at the Christian Book Sellers convention and the traditional publishers are down sizing and moving toward providing more self publishing options. There were tons of self published books and authors every where. It is amazing how much the self publishing industry is taking off.

  45. I love your post but after all these years don’t feel like Sonic Youth or Rancid or the great Ani DiFranco and thus immune to what bookstore/mainstream puiblishing people think?

    The independent music artists I mentioned gave up a long time ago trying to get WalMart or K Mart or Best Buy to stock their Cds. I’ve gotten to be email/twitter friends with Juliana Hatfield, who was big for five minutes in the early 90s. She sells all of her CDs and merchandise online these days and seems so happy with it.

    I’m on the verge (about a month) from independently publishing my first book. As REM once said about their first CD, “if we sold 12 copies out of our van we felt like rock stars”. That what I hope. After my twelve copy, I’ll feel like a real writer.

    You can laugh at me, now.

    1. Your book doesn’t happen to be about music does it? I’m a 90’s alterna-child and love a good retrospective on music 🙂

      1. yes…it’s about a female punk rocker in the year 2008 but their references to 80s and 90s music by the other characters.

  46. What a great post! I think this highlights the different paths available; not everyone wants the same thing out of publishing, and not only do writers have options,but a wealth of information is available online about publishing in general so you can make an informed decision.

    I am planning to start with the traditional publishing route to see what happens, but in the meantimes I’ve learned through the two writing organizations I’m a part of that authors find success in small presses and through self-publishing.

    • Hunter on July 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm
    • Reply

    Breast-feeding truck driver – I fail on both counts, although I used to tell people I was a truck driver when they asked what I do in a previous career – it was easier than explaining what a software test manager did (cue: crickets). So if that trad publisher was after a metaphor that was more easily understood by a larger majority of people ie. customers, he’s (presuming a he) actually stumbled onto something, lol.

    Once again, thanks for bringing me up to spec, and giving me a chuckle.

  47. A very encouraging post. Not all agents are dismissive of self-publishing, however. My first two novels were published with a traditional publisher, but when this spring my agent couldn’t place my third book with any of the big publishers (Canada), or my original publisher (new editor), she encouraged me to put it up on Amazon myself. And get on with the next book! So, I have a designer putting the cover together and when the copy-edit is done, and I’ve waded through the formatting quagmire, I’ll be joining you all in self-pub land. Loved your book btw.

  48. I can’t thank you enough for MyWANA. Your inspiration has changed my writing life. 🙂 This post explains all the hows and whys. Real Writers Ship. LOVE it!

  49. Well said. Bravo!

  50. As the other comments have said, thank you for this inspiring post. I am one who’s querying agents at the moment on a picture book I’ve written. I’ve written four to be exact. This is my second to query. The first bombed big-time. It was suggested that I take it out of rhyme, which I did, only to re-submit, and not a word in eight months. My second pb, I emailed 9 queries to well-researched agents, nada. (I came close to blog-stalking these agents and followed every single rule in their query instructions.)

    I received 1 heartfelt rejection. This agent was professional & personal. The other 8, well, I guess they’re passing. I’m so very tired of writing what I believe to be great manuscripts, only to have them ignored. Self-pubbing picture books is near impossible. What’s a pb writer to do?

    I do write other genres, which I’m now pouring my heart, body, and soul into. My hopes are still high; at least at this point they are. I just hope that when it comes time, and the manuscripts are polished, I’ll still have the drive to go Indie or self-publish. Time will tell.

    Thank you so much for always keeping it real and positive, Kristen. 🙂

    1. It is tough. Being an artist is never easy. But I know a lot of writers feel really down with all that is required. But we need to keep our eyes on the prize :D. We can do this if we stick together. We just keep working and the technology change so quickly these days, it won’t be any time at all before you could do your own picture books. What about developing an iPad app off of it?

  51. Inspirational article! I agree whole heartedly with the pickiness of the publishing industry, having been around it for over a decade. It seems to be controlled by elitists and not just in NY but here in Britain and my old home, Australia. I really loved your comment about not having to be a perfect writer. That hit hard because subconsciously I’ve been doing that with constant rewrites, edits and worrying, more so with novels than short stories. When as you put it, we should just publish it, at the end of the day we have to be able to say enough’s enough, if I rewrite/edit/critique it anymore I’ll end up destroying it.
    I’m going to take your advice and publish The Deepening Dark on December 21, because well that is the winter solstice and it goes along with the title. I’m going to quit worrying about are there any mistakes? Hey I have time to edit and check for delinquent commas, and I’m going to go through your book again and try out these suggestions. Thanks for writing that today I needed to read it. 🙂

  52. Inspiration inspires inspiration…

    Sending query letters can feel like one is stranded at sea, bobbing upon the waves, while waving at the large ships passing by not seeing us waving frantically at them to let us aboard their ships.

    Again your blog inspires and encourages us to continue writing, work at perfecting the craft, and learn the business as professionals rather than pigeons waiting for crumbs to fall our way.

    I especialy like the way you encourage us to (in effect) turn the other cheek to rudeness. Just because some of the agents/editors are rude does not mean we should be also. Professionalism has no room for rudeness, which is just another form of bulliness.

    Thank you


  53. Great blog, Kristen. How true! It’s funny about agents ignoring you until you get yours books published and then they are suddenly interested in you. I had queried several agents but was able to pitch to two editors. One took my medical romance that came out as an ebook last December, the other editor has contracted four of my books, a paranormal YA that came out in April, a women’s suspense that is coming out on the 28th of this month and two more coming out later this year, a YA adventure, and a medical/police thriller. The funny part is I received an email from an agent I had queried a LONG time ago. “Oops, I think your query for representation got lost in our email, please contact us.” Do I pop her a nice email and say sorry, the books I queried you about are already contracted plus more books.
    It would be nice to have someone get me a big advance but is that going to happen? Probably not.
    What I am hoping is that when I have enough books out there (it will be five by the end of this year) that I will have my name out there.
    Thank you for posting this blog. Very inspiring.

    • Joanna Aislinn on July 20, 2012 at 9:31 pm
    • Reply

    Excellent post, Kristen. Very true, totally encouraging and a tremendous shot in the arm for this author. Thank you for your time and dedication to all of us. You rock!

  54. Thank you for this, Kristen! I have spent a fair amount of time wringing my hands and wondering if I’ve taken some serious missteps going the indie route with my first book. Some days I’m certain I’m doing the right thing for me, other days I’m pretty sure I’ve ruined my entire career before it’s even started by not going the traditional route. But to be fair, I generally question it all after reading some blog by some agent who says you must have an agent and a big-name publisher to be a legitimate writer.
    The truth is, though, as much as I love seeing my sales rise so I can pay my bills, I’m not driven to write so I can pay my bills. I’m driven to write because there is a story inside me that I must tell, and one that, I hope will touch others just as much as it has touch me.
    My novels aren’t “traditional” – I know because I’ve had two different agents tell me that although I have talent and a compelling story, they can’t sell it. But readers don’t care that it doesn’t fit snugly inside a specific genre, they care about the characters, the conflicts, the story. Indie writers, which I’m beginning to gain the confidence to call myself, are able to write what they feel compelled to write and reach an audience that is compelled to read it, in spite of the traditional “gatekeepers”. It truly IS a wonderful time to be a writer!

  55. Great post. I’ve been thinking along these lines and doing some research. Your post is validating some of the things I’ve been discovering.

  56. Wonderful post, Kristen! I appreciate the insights and encouragement you’ve shared here.

    In some ways, what you discuss has been my story. I let an agent query rejection stall me for two long years before I finally shipped my first novel. It was the support of other indie and self-published writers (especially one who wanted to interview me for her blog and asked where people could buy my book) that finally got me off my puffer-fish butt and into publication.

    Before, I was all talk. Now, I’m more about the doing. I have plans for three more books in the series the first novel sparked, another series in the works, and ideas for several stand-alone novels and a few non-fiction books and poetry anthologies – all because I finally embraced the idea of going sp.

    Thanks again for your entertaining and inspiring blend of encouragement and butt-kicking. We all need it.

  57. Insightful post, Kristen. I recommend two resources for writers. The first is a manifesto by Jeff Goins, simply entitled, “The Writer’s Manifesto.” Everyone who has ever put pen to paper should read this. So many people discount their talents and wallow in rejection. This book can change all that.

    The second is a book by Michael Hyatt, entitled “Platform, Get Noticed In a Noisy World.” This is a helpful resource for all self publishers. Michael is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers and their former CEO and offers rare insight into the changing industry.

    Both of these have helped me see that writing is not just rejection letters anymore. Now you can take things in your own hands. Even if you go the traditional publishing route, you need to have courage as a writer and build your own platform.

  58. Wise, witty and whimsical. You inform and entertain. I cherish your posts.

  59. Kristen,

    After (sort of) getting over the idea of holding my picture book in my hands, flipping beautifully illustrated pages and inhaling the sweet scent of “book,” I took some great advice of a MYWANA member. I joined her in a FB collaborations group for uTales, a children’s ebook publisher.

    The FB group is a place for authors and illustrators to meet and collaborate. After a few short weeks of posting, I’m now collaborating with an illustrator who’s had 3 books published w/ uTales. The prospects seem hopeful.

    Now, if I can overcome the (sort of) feeling above, and if computers would come with a bookish scent feature wafting through the screen, I’ll be elated. 🙂

    Thanks again for a hope-filled post and your sweet comments. 🙂

    1. My son is 2 and a half and he LOVES the iPad. I bought it for me but he quickly made it his own, LOL. He loves the shapes games, etc. I think the technology can make your stories interactive which the kids love and it helps them learn so much faster. I think we can all reach our dreams if we are open to what form those dreams take :D. I wish you the best and have you checked out the Children’s Author/Illustrator tribes on WANATribe?

      1. No, at least I don’t think I have! Lol. I’ll hop on over and check it out. I know I signed up for a couple of children’s writer tribes. I’ll have a looksee. :))

  60. This post contains a wealth of valuable information! Thanks for the discipline and energy that you devoted to your loyal readers! 🙂 Z

    1. You guys are my joy to serve :D.

  61. This is a great post, Kristen. If I had any doubts, I don’t now. I can’t believe the arrogance of some of the traditional crowd. I don’t care how bad a book is, you treat people with respect. Walking away in the middle of someone speaking is deplorable. Some of the stories you shared remind me of a lot of doctors – their time is always (seemingly) more valuable than ours.

    I think self-publishing is an awesome route, but I’d love to know your ideas on how to continue to gain respect in the industry. I’m amazed at how many reviewers won’t reviews self-pubbed books. I know quality control is still needed, and a major part is up to us by investing in proven editors. But it’s hard to get a foot in the door as an indie to prove you’ve put the work into your product. Guess we just have to keep busting our butts to make our books great.

  62. It’s been interesting, I ‘got serious’ about my writing at the cusp of the ‘digital revolution’ and have watched the craziness as things changed. But I came to it as a young person who was going into business as a ‘first choice’ so never understood why writers COULDN’T stand up for their rights the same way any business does: Stop doing business with people who disrespect or cheat you.

    Now that the revolution is getting focused on everywhere, that’s what people are saying. Now there’s an option outside of just saying no. And it’s really cool that that’s true!

  63. Great post Kristen and I believe the breast-feeding truck driver comment refers to the misguided notion that the only work worth self-publishing is that which appeals to a niche market and would be otherwise unpublishable elsewhere. I really liked your comment: “One of the largest barriers to becoming a successful writer is trying to be a perfect writer.” This is one of the ideas I have been writing about in my blog but you articulated it in a great way, and it is specially true in today’s publishing environment. Unless one’s book is a blockbuster taking many years to write a single book simply doesn’t work anymore. The current system favors the prolific writer.

  64. I am disgusted though not shocked with those stories about the literary agents who act that way. And bookstores. It’s their tough luck if they miss out on good deals because of their prejudices against Indie writers. A lot of what is published traditionally is junk, while many self-published books (not ALL) are good. I love the novel I just finished and plan on writing a review for my blog, though it’s SP. A.B. Wells, the author, takes a lot of pride in her work. Consequently, I like it too.

  65. It is so cool when someone of your stature agrees with my opinion. Fun, too. I’ve been saying this to our writers here in NWArkansas for months now. This is a great time to be a writer. Embrace the opportunities and stop whining about publishing in NY. Why would you want to? Oh, okay, if you had another Twilight, maybe, but again I ask. Why? Looking forward to seeing you at OWL next month.

  66. Really enjoyed your informative and encouraging blog. I have been somewhat hesitant to try self-publishing just because of the stigma that seems to be attached. Now I see that it may be a planned thing to keep traditional publishers in business during this time when there are other choices for authors. Thanks!

  67. Kristen, you are so right! I’ve experienced similar myself. At one writers conference I attended, an editor representing a well-known publishing house – Random House – actually sniggered! at a writer nervously delivering his pitch. I was both horrified and angered. It was all the reason I needed for my going indie. And if a traditional publisher ever wants my book, I’m going to make them sweat!

  68. Great post, as usual. I love the empowerment feeling I get reading self-published author’s posts. It is scary stepping out on your own, without a big corporation to hold your hand. It’s scary to let the manuscript out of it’s folder and into the world. But there is no reward without risk. I think you have proved that. Definitely thinking about trying the SP world. Not sure I’m ready yet to take on all the business details, but in the meanwhile I’m following MYWANA advice and building a platform while I epub with a great publisher. One step at a time. Thanks Kristen!

    • Janet Boyer on July 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm
    • Reply

    I am STUNNED at the “breast feeding truck drivers” crack! OMG. Traditional publishers must REALLY be scared of the indie revolution… Anyway, I’ve been loathing the day I have to get an agent for my mystery, especially after reading “It seems any 24 year old with a degree from NYU can hang up a shingle and call herself a literary agent and suddenly she is “real.”” Gah, so true! I’m an unagented, traditionally-published non-fiction writer, but was assuming I NEEDED an agent for my fiction. Maybe not, after all… Btw, don’t feel badly that B&N doesn’t shelve your book, Kristen; get this: I was going to do a book signing at the closest Books-a-Million for my latest TRADITIONALLY published book, right? When I talked to the manager, he said “Oh, we can get your FIRST book in…but not your newly released one. We don’t carry your publisher’s books in our stores…ONLY ONLINE.” WTF? Talk about frustrating! And, my husband and I are contracted to do a Tarot deck/book set with them (he’s 60 paintings in to it!), and we just found this out. Le sigh.

  69. This is wonderful and eye-opening. As a young writer, starting on my journey this is very helpful. I have always had this dream to publish a book… but I told myself first you must write. I have been writing religiously since I was in middle school… and though I am still a rookie I feel that I have something to say and the more people I try to reach with my blog, etc… the better I will get.
    I am now realizing that self-publishing is just as validating as being traditionally published. Though I still struggle with what the best option is for me… I keep leaning more and more with the self-publishing avenue. And I think that if you believe in your book enough to self-publish then you are showing a level of commitment that is more than necessary to have a successful career as a writer.
    Thanks for this wonderful information 🙂

  70. respect is a two-way street.

  71. Two additional reasons why I love being indie is that I own my work outright and can, for example, take or leave an editors comments. Secondly, I can write cross-genre to my heart’s desire.

    Really, I’m so into breaking with tradition… “Vive la Revolution!”

  72. I tell my clients that there are three parts to think about – the writing, the publishing and the marketing. Without the writing you have nothing to publish or market but once you’ve created the work it needs a vehicle to reach your audience.

    To use an analogy, you grow the vegetables, you put them in a box and you take them to the farmers’ market. Or, you can grow the vegetables and sell them to a wholesaler who takes them to the supermarket for you. Both methods have their challenges and rewards. One is not better than the other; it just depends what your goals are.

    This is a great blog post. It’s going on my blog. Take a look:

  73. WOW! This is fantastic. You have said everything I have been wanting to say but didn’t dare open my mouth because I thought I must be wrong. I don’t think you mentioned editors and reviewers but I find most of them displaying the same elitist attitude.

    • lynnkelleyauthor on July 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm
    • Reply

    Boy, that really ticks me off that they made you go outside in 112 heat to sell your books. The scumbags. How cruel.
    You’re right about the self-pubbing forcing us to learn the business side. I’m still learning that side and it will probably be an ongoing thing, just like continuing to learn more about the craft of writing is. Bob Mayer is so right. So are you. This is an excellent post, Kristen. Thankfully we have WANA to help each other through all the rough spots.

  74. Wonderful post. Thanks for writing this, Kristen!

  75. It’s all true! And yet, it can lead to one particular tricky situation. I’m doing okay as a self-published author – not in the big leagues, but staying ahead of the curve. Now I have the possibility of becoming traditionally published… so what do I do? I know the potential is there for me to push the envelope with self-publishing, to make real money whilst staying in control of my material and my reader-relationships. BUT – there’s no doubt, a traditional publisher has greater reach than me. Bookshops (the few that remain), book fairs and rights deals… they can attract those situations better than I ever could, even if I hired someone to do this sort of thing for me. That part of the industry is still sewn up by the old guard.
    So what to do? Go with the legacy, and hope my indie success will inspire them to put some effort behind what they do for me? Or forge on on my own, with all the freedom – but never quite sure if I’ll ever reach the next level…
    Y’see? Tricky one!

  76. Thank you for your timely post, Kristen. In the past couple of weeks, I have self published my poetry book under my own LLC, had a very successful book signing in my hometown in the Hudson River Valley in NY and I am almost out of my first print run. I have two more book signings coming up within the next month and a return book signing to the Hudson River Valley in October. Do I call this a success? You bet I do!

  77. Another great piece. Agreed, that platform building is a must these days for self-pubbers.

  78. I enjoyed this blog a lot. There were some typos, but hey, no one’s perfect, ‘eh? lol Thanks for all of your experience and insight. This novice appreciates it! xo Julia

  79. I think it’s a great time to be a writer. Aside from the various ways to get published and the choice of whether or not to choose traditional representation, there are also plenty of ways to practice writing. The blogosphere offers fests and hops for writing in new genres and trying different voices. Words inspired by pictures, illustrations and word prompts. With these come comments and thoughts from readers which is almost a critique group. It’s a great time to be a writer!
    A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

  80. I’m on the third draft of a novel and have been toying with the idea of self-publishing. Your article has given me a strong push in that direction. Maybe I won’t even try for an agent!

    • Stephen Siegal on May 31, 2013 at 11:10 am
    • Reply

    First of all, I just completed reading your book, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and enjoyed the useful comments and points that you wrote about. This takes my mind off of having to deal with these issues.
    I have another concern with wanting to publish my book. I definetly want to seek self-publication and have looked into many book publishing companies concerning this matter. As you know, writing a novel takes hundreds of hours of your precious time. I fear sending my novel to an unscrupulous publishing company only to be drained of my money and get little if anything in return.
    I found a publisher, Mill City Press, who advertises that all royalties are given to the author with only publishing expenses going to the publisher. Is this a good program or are there other programs out there that you highly recommend?

    Thank you,

    1. If you are going to self-publish, you can do everything yourself. I’d recommend hiring a good editor and cover designer. I recommend Green E-books for formatting. Most everything else, you can do yourself.

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